Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday announced the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has approved more than $63 million for six Alabama projects that address high-priority conservation needs, including the acquisition and restoration of significant coastal habitats in key focal areas, and the continuation of fisheries monitoring.
"One of Alabama's greatest natural treasures is its gulf coast, and it's vital that we continue to provide the necessary funds to ensure our coastline is restored from the devastation caused by the 2010 oil spill," Governor Bentley said. "This $63 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will support long-term recovery efforts and provide for future efforts to return wildlife populations to their normal levels. I appreciate the efforts of our local, state and federal partners who are working so hard on the continuing resurgence of the Alabama Gulf Coast."
In 2013, a U.S. District Court approved two plea agreements resolving certain criminal charges against BP and Transocean related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The funds announced Tuesday are the fourth installment from NFWF's Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF). A total of $356 million will be paid into the Gulf Fund over a five-year period for conservation projects in the State of Alabama.
The number of awards from the GEBF in the state of Alabama now stands at 19, with a total value of more than $115 million. All projects were selected for funding following extensive consultation with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Alabama 2016 Projects Include:
Multifaceted Fisheries and Ecosystem Monitoring in Alabama's Marine Waters and the Gulf of Mexico -- approximately $4.4 million
This project represents the third and fourth years of the fisheries monitoring effort in the state of Alabama. The data collected will be used to improve ecosystem-based management capabilities, assess the recovery of reef fish stocks in association with other fisheries restoration efforts, and improve and expand single-species stock assessments for managed fish species.
Bon Secour-Oyster Bay Wetland Acquisition Project -- approximately $12.5 million
This acquisition project will protect and restore approximately 935 acres of diverse coastal habitat in the City of Gulf Shores. The tidal marshes, maritime forests, and freshwater swamps located in this project area are important habitat for many species of conservation significance including threatened and endangered species such as the Alabama red-bellied turtle and the eastern indigo snake, and various wading birds. The tidal wetlands and swamps serve as a nursery for commercially important shellfish and finfish and play a crucial role in the water quality and ecological function of the Oyster Bay, Bon Secour, and Little Lagoon watersheds.
Dauphin Island Conservation Acquisition -- approximately $3.5 million
This project proposes the acquisition of approximately eight acres of remaining undeveloped beachfront (1,200 linear feet) on a mid-island section of Dauphin Island. This primary barrier island provides important nesting, loafing, stopover, and foraging habitats for a variety of coastal birds, shorebirds, neotropical migrants, and other avian species, as well as nesting habitat for endangered sea turtles. In addition to the acquisition, funding is included to design and construct a dune walkover and fencing to protect habitat while allowing limited and appropriate public access.
Lightning Point Acquisition and Restoration Project -- Phase I -- approximately $6 million
This project will protect and restore a key stretch of coastal shoreline at the mouth of Bayou La Batre River. Specifically, the project includes the acquisition of more than 100 acres of coastal habitat and the engineering and design for restoring approximately 28 acres of marsh and 1.5 miles of intertidal nearshore breakwater. The acquisition targets represent more than 2 miles of nearly contiguous undeveloped waterfront adjacent to existing protected lands owned by the State of Alabama, Mobile County, and the City of Bayou La Batre.
Fowl River Watershed Restoration: Coastal Spits and Wetlands Project -- Phase I -- approximately $1 million
Restoration of important coastal spits and wetlands within the lower reaches of Fowl River is a significant priority action identified in the recently completed Fowl River Watershed Management Plan, funded under a prior GEBF award. This project will fund engineering and design studies to develop a solution to stabilize and protect four priority in-river wetland spits and restore marshland throughout the intertidal portions of lower Fowl River. Additionally, this project will fund hydrologic modelling and a marsh health and recovery study for the watershed to provide managers a valuable tool to guide and prioritize future restoration projects throughout the Watershed.
Gulf Highlands Conservation Acquisition -- approximately $36 million
This project proposes to acquire, conserve, and manage 113 acres with 2,700 feet of Gulf frontage beach/dune habitat -- the largest, privately held, undeveloped beachfront parcel remaining in coastal Alabama. Protection of this key habitat would benefit nesting sea turtles, migratory birds and shorebirds, as well as the endangered Alabama beach mouse. In addition to the direct acquisition cost, the project includes funding to support future management and stewardship of these important coastal habitats; including, but not limited to, invasive species control, boundary postings, and human disturbance management via strategically placed dune walk-overs, fencing, and interpretive signage. Once acquired, the parcel will be deeded to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Parks Division for long-term management and inclusion in their Ft. Morgan Parkway management area with limited public access.
"This announcement today concludes over nine months of continued interaction with NFWF and our grant recipients to develop these outstanding projects," Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner N. Gunter Guy, Jr. said. "They are the products of several of our watershed management plans funded in an earlier NFWF phase, as well as projects which build on the priorities outlined in the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program's Coastal Conservation and Management Plan. It is exciting to be able to actually realize the benefits of those planning efforts which are designed to create a stronger, heathier coastal Alabama."
Additional information on each project will soon be available on the following websites: http://www.alabamacoastalrestoration.org/nfwf.aspx and http://www.nfwf.org/gulf.